Baskett considers military his heroes
Indianapolis Star photo: Matt Detrich From left, Indianapolis Colts defenders Ed Johnson, Melvin Bullitt, Antonio Johnson and Hank Baskett try and block a field goal in the an October game against the Tennessee Titans. Baskett is the first Clovis native to play in a Super Bowl.
Hank Baskett heard the words, “Blue ball.”
And with that, he thought he had recovered his muff for his blue-clad Indianapolis Colts on the onside kick that started Super Bowl XLIV’s second half Sunday in Miami.
That’s when he relaxed in the pile, he said, and a New Orleans player swiped the ball.
The story’s well-known a day later. The Saints scored to take their first lead of the night, and a litany of Colts second-half errors paved the way for a 31-17 New Orleans victory at Miami.
As for the game, Baskett looked at Super Bowl Sunday as an amazing experience regardless of the final outcome.
“The national anthem and everything, it’s something to know everybody is watching,” Baskett said. “I was thinking back to Play Inc., where it started. All those times you’re at practice and your friends are at the lake, you’re asking yourself what you’re doing it for.”
Baskett, whose father is retired from the Air Force, says two sets of prayers before each game — one for the players on the field, and another for military personnel across the world.
“They don't believe it when I tell them I'm just as big a fan of them as they are of me,” Baskett said as a member of his first NFL team, the Philadelphia Eagles. “When I was growing up, they were the heroes, and they still are.”
Plays throughout the second half swung against the Colts and towards the Saints. Veteran kicker Matt Stover, who became the oldest player in Super Bowl history Sunday at 42, had a 51-yard field goal attempt fly just left of the crossbar — giving the Saints great field position instead of a 20-16 deficit.
The Saints took the lead for good on a 2-yard pass from Brees to Jeremy Shockey, and got a 2-point conversion that was first ruled no good but reversed on a challenge.
The touchdown pass was Brees’ 32nd completion of the game, tying a Super Bowl record.
The Colts drove for the tie, but New Orleans corner Tracy Porter stepped in front of a short route and returned the pick 74 yards for the score to ice the comeback.
For all of the Colts’ mistakes and the Saints’ highlights, Baskett’s special teams bobble still loomedin the days following. A Monday ESPN SportsNation poll had 56 percent of respondents say the onside kick recovery was the more vital play than Manning’s interception in the Saints’ win.
The first successful non-fourth quarter onside kick in Super Bowl history skipped to the right side of the field, towards Baskett. He dove for the ball, but it bounced off his helmet and hands. Chris Reis of New Orleans first got his hands on it, but Baskett said he was able to get the ball back momentarily in the scrum of Colts and Saints players.
The scrum, with several shouts of “blue ball” audible on replays, lasted about a minute before the official signal that New Orleans had the ball.
“It will go down as a momentum swing,” Baskett said, “but I did everything I could to get the ball.”
Baskett didn’t want to deflect criticism toward other Colts mistakes, saying that “it’s easier to play (well) when you’re ahead.”
Baskett goes into free agency. He signed with the Colts in the second week of the season, after the Eagles cut him to make room for quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Michael Vick.
The Baskett family, with 7-week-old Hank IV, lives in Carmel, Ind.
“I would love to stay in Indy, it’s a great organization,” Baskett said. “We’ll see what happens.”